I’ve been confused about what intuitive eating is. I thought I got the hang of it: eat what you want, when you want it and say ‘no’ when you are full? Right? According to an Intuitive Eating site this is what it is:
Intuitive Eating is an approach developed to help people heal from the side effects of chronic dieting. ... An intuitive eater is defined as a person who “makes food choices without experiencing guilt or an ethical dilemma, honors hunger, respects fullness and enjoys the pleasure of eating.”
After reading that very brief explanation, I realised I got it somewhat wrong. I take pleasure in my food but often feel guilt. I used to use exercise as a form of punishment and then restrict my calorie intake- only to binge secretly on food later. I hated the way I looked (I have now come to a point of acceptance and even really love certain body parts I would not live without). But what is this Intuitive Eating all about? I’m going to look into it for anyone who has ever at any point felt somewhat confused, like myself.
Alright! So I found a link that gives us the ten principles of intuitive eating. Let’s break it down so we really know what this is. Yes, we are discovering this together!
1. Reject the Diet Mentality
Okay, so from what I read it tells me to let go of the images in magazines- check. Get angry at the lies that have led me to this point- double check! Stop allowing hope that a new and better diet is lurking around the corner for me to try. This is sounding easy!
2. Honour Your Hunger
We must keep our bodies fed. If not, we could trigger the primal fear to overeat. Remember, we come from primates and when food was scarce and then magically appeared, we gorged like it was our birth right to do so. Who knows when next we get to eat, right?! We must honour our hunger- alright, I won’t lie. I have been honouring my emotions and not much else.
3. Make Peace with Food
As I read this I silently chanted ‘I am one with food. Food is not my enemy’. You may laugh, but its true. This principle urges us to call a truce with food and give ourselves permission to eat. I give myself permission to eat all the time, even in secret. So, how might this work for little ol’ me? I felt the intense guilt of giving into foods in the past, now I just EAT. I hope the next few principles get better.
4. Challenge the Food Police
Ooohh, this sounds interesting! This principle starts with saying ‘Scream a loud “NO” to thoughts in your head that declare you’re “good” for eating minimal calories or “bad” because you ate a piece of chocolate cake’. Okay look, I like the idea, but I won’t scream out loud. I would make people worried, I would scream every day, all day. But perhaps this is what it takes though. Granted, we all have been brainwashed about food and diets, that perhaps, if we stopped the Food Police that we have come to know, that has built its own identity in our minds, we could forgo the rules set out for and by us, and have kinder “rules” about how to treat food. I think I’ll whisper this ‘no’, but I like the idea of physically stopping yourself from eating food or having “good” food.
5. Respect Your Fullness
Ah, a principle that I have not understood and need to. This makes me think of an Alanis Morrisette song- ‘how ‘bout stopping eating when I am full up’. I haven’t always listened to my own body. But how do you know when you are full? Well, if I am correct, you don’t mindlessly binge on the food you are eating but sit and enjoy it for what it is. When you do this, you are attuned to your eating and therefore should be able to tell when you are full. You should feel the signals for when you are comfortably full. Not the kind of full that makes you feel sick or makes you feel you could be rolled out the room.
6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor
The site says that when you eat what you really want, in an inviting and conducive setting, you will get a pleasure so powerful, you will feel content and satisfied. This reminds of when I went for sushi during my work lunch breaks with my best friend, Sorrel. We ordered our favourite drinks, ate our favourite sushi, felt full and that was only half the amount we could scoff down today. This theory says a lot. I wonder though if you are in an environment you don’t quite like, say work, even home or somewhere else. Do you make this an enjoyable area? Not eat there at all? I guess I might make sure I am interrupted for that time and eat my food in peace and happiness.
7. Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food
You know how you may comfort and distract yourself with food? I know I do. But now, we need to look at different outlets for those situations that don’t involve us stuffing food in our mouths. Feel depressed? Take a walk, write in your journal, watch a show, visit a friend, but don’t medicate with food. Find an outlet that will benefit you or make you happy. Food is not there for emotions but is there for our enjoyment and nourishment. We need to learn to work through our emotions instead of feeding them- which only makes them pop back up again. If you have the means, I would say look for a counsellor or therapist to help you with those emotions.
To me, food can feel like a drug. It gives me a temporary high, and when that’s gone, I am left to the same feelings. This principle makes a hell of a lot of sense to me.
8. Respect Your Body
‘Accept your genetic blueprint’ the site says. I am pear shaped. I have a butt that could twerk if I tried. My legs offer no thigh gap and I gain weight on my lower half first. This is my genetic blueprint. I know I won’t look like Kate Moss, circa the 90’s. I cannot expect myself to. And you cannot expect to look like something you aren’t. You are you, and that is perfect. But the site says to respect your body to feel better about who YOU are. This sounds like self-acceptance to me. I’m for it. I order to reject any and all aspects of diet mentality, we need to respect and accept ourselves.
9. Exercise—Feel the Difference
I also cringed here… I don’t always like exercise, but I will say that when I did it just for me, I felt good. It’s not about strict, militant exercise or burning calories but feeling a difference and allowing your body to MOVE. This motivates you to get up and go. You have only been thinking of how exercise makes you feel (energised, happy, limber) instead of the results from exercising.
10. Honour Your Health
Even though we don’t need to eat a perfect diet, as we have learned, we do need to have some gentle nutrition. Some veg, some fruit, water etc. This is all a part of health. You can snack, eat a favourite meal- that won’t hurt you! What you eat over time matters towards your health and we need to start making the healthy choices every so often.
I am not, and I repeat, not an expert on Intuitive Eating. I will research more about it, and who it may not wok for. I’m going to give this a shot and see what results I yield. When I say this, I don’t mean weight loss or gain, I just mean happiness- because that’s what I want and hope for myself and others.
What about Intuitive Eating do you want to know more about?